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Pensions: A snapshot of fund values, payouts and memberships

September 13, 2023, 2:00 p.m. (EDT)

According to new data released today, the total market value of gross assets held by Canadian trusteed pension funds rose to nearly $2.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2023, an increase of $40.9 billion (+1.9%) from the previous quarter. However, this was down $9.6 billion (-0.4%) from the first quarter in 2022.

The values of the five largest asset categories all saw quarterly increases in the first quarter of 2023. Equities rose by $820.0 billion (+1.1%); bonds, by $544.7 billion (+1.0%); real estate, by $267.9 billion (+0.6%); infrastructure, by $209.6 billion (+4.6%); and other assets, by $157.4 billion (+6.2%).

Public sector pension assets accounted for nearly four-fifths (79.4%) of the total market value, a marginal decrease from the previous quarter (80.1%).

Treasury bills and liquid assets account for largest percentage gains

The private market value of Government of Canada treasury bills increased by 92.3% from the previous quarter to $2.5 billion in the first quarter of 2023, the sharpest percentage gain among all public or private asset categories.

The market value of cash, deposits and Guaranteed Investment Certificates increased by more than one-third (+35.2%) over the same period to $6.2 billion for the private sector, while that for the public sector rose 13.4% to $15.0 billion.

The total value of accrued interest and dividends receivable also grew (+31.9%).

Equities and other assets lead value gains

The total market value of equities and other assets each saw a quarterly gain of $9.2 billion in market value in the first quarter of 2023, followed by a $9.1 billion increase in infrastructure assets.

Increases were higher for the public sector than the private sector in all three categories.

Mortgages and other short-term funds differ most between sectors

The public sector market value of Canadian mortgages declined 4.8% quarter over quarter to $24.6 billion in the first quarter of 2023, largely due to residential mortgages. Conversely, the private sector saw a 14.8% increase to $2.7 billion.

The private sector also saw a 7.9% decline to $2.6 billion in the value of other short-term funds, while the same category increased in value by 2.6% to $28.3 billion in the public sector.

Payouts decrease

Pension payouts from both private and public sector funds declined 6.1% from the fourth quarter of 2022 to $17.2 billion in the first quarter of 2023.

However, payouts were up 1.2% year over year, with the private sector (+8.2%) fully accounting for the increase, compared with a decline for the public sector (-1.0%).

Household pension values

In the first quarter of 2023, the value of life insurance and employer pensions among all Canadian households was nearly $3.0 trillion, or $180,500 per household. This rose to $200,600 per household in households where the main source of income was pension benefits.

In households where the main income earner was aged 55 to 64 years, the value of life insurance and pensions was $356,500, which made up just over one-fifth (21.7%) of total household assets.

For those where the main income earner was 65 years and older, this value decreased to $170,800—as those in this age group tended to draw from their accumulated pension assets to fund consumption—and the proportion of total household assets was 15.1%.

Who has a pension?

Over 6.7 million Canadians were active members of a registered pension plan (RPP) in 2021, up 118,000 (+1.8%) from 2020. Both public and private sector plans reported growth.

Over two-thirds (68.0%) of RPP members were covered by a defined benefit  plan, in which an employer or sponsor promises a specified pension payment, lump sum or combination of the two upon retirement.

Nearly one-fifth (18.3%) of RPP membership was in defined contribution plans, which specify the contributions made by the employer as well as the employee if the plan is contributory.

The percentage coverage rate, which is the proportion of all paid workers covered by an RPP, declined 1.7 percentage points from 2020 to 38.0% in 2021.

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Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (